The Way Way Back – 4 out of 5
Remember sitting in the way, way back seat in your family’s station wagon? I don’t because we never owned one…also it might be a little moronic of me to just assume that the person reading this had a family that owned a station wagon. Maybe your family had some badass sports car or some kind of sand-hopping dune buggy or just a boring old minivan—anyway, for those not in the know, the way, way back seat of a station wagon sucked (or rocked, depending on the person sitting in it). You had to face away and watch the world as it passed by and it serves as a metaphor for the film…and it serves as the title of the film (in case you missed that part).
|Our hero begins this summer with no self-confidence and very pale...|
Duncan (Liam James) is a shy, awkward teenager (sitting in the way, way back seat) and he’s on his way to the beach for a summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), his mother’s demeaning and all-around douchy boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell) and the boyfriend’s snotty and snobbish daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). It looks like it’s going to be another summer of alienation for the boy until he happens upon a nearby water park and meets one of its more colorful employees; Owen (Sam Rockwell). Owen gives Duncan a job and starts to unload his unique, slacker-like wisdom on the boy in order to coax him out of his shell.
|"The first step towards not being a awkward shut-in is play a whole lot of Pac-Man."|
Going into this film, I thought it was going to have a very notable Little Miss Sunshine vibe going for it (and that’s not a bad thing because I LOVE that movie). The trailer gave off a tone of a bittersweet comedy that is capable of making you both tear up from the heavy emotion and then proceed to laugh your ass off from the witty comedy…and the presence of LMS alumni Steve Carell and Toni Collette didn’t hurt in adding to this vibe either. However, after viewing it, I found my original assumption about the film was very wrong.
|Ah, the face made during those uncomfortable and unwanted hugs. I see that a lot...|
on other people. I'm the one giving the hugs.
|You should never take advice from a man in that kind of|
hat...unless that man is Sam Rockwell.
|I thought this was a giant litter box but I'm being told it's a beach. I don't get out much.|
|The Dean from Community seems to be doing well for|
himself...just look at that 'stache!
|You can smile bigger than that, you co-wrote and co-directed a great movie.|
The cast is fantastic in this film and it contains two personal favorites of mine: Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell. Carell plays a part I’ve never seen from him as his character of Trent is just a plain dick. He’s mean to Duncan and is even worse to Duncan’s mother. After years of seeing Carell play the loveable goofball, it was shocking but a pleasant surprise to see Carell do so well with playing such an unlikeable character. The scenes he shares with Liam James and the incredibly talented Toni Collette (and she’s no slouch in this film either) are just fantastic to watch.
|He's still less of an asshole than my stepfather was...and that's only because my|
stepfather wasn't Steve Carell.
There’s a lot of great talent in the film but, a sad reality is, they sometimes feel wasted as their characters often have little to no impact on the central story. Allison Janney is great as the drunk neighbor friend that accompanies the visiting crew and she has her part to play as she’s the mother of a girl that catches Duncan’s eye (but, of course, he’s shy so no dice). However, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet are in the film as a couple friends of Pam and Trent’s and, while both are very talented individuals, they felt like they did little for Duncan’s journey. Granted, these characters are more in the film for Pam’s journey of realizing who she is really dating but the story doesn’t do much to balance what Duncan’s mother is going through in her own personal life. A majority of the story focuses on her relationship with her son and the few times the film ventures into her relationship with Trent it felt like an afterthought. While a little distracting and feeling like a waste of Corddry and Peet, this isn’t a deal breaker for the film because it all does come to a head and it works for the dramatic unfolding of the story.
|Oh and Maya Rudolph is in the movie too...I forgot to mention that.|
Also, the water park is called Water Wizz...it's like they're inviting the fat kids in their
t-shirts to pee in the water slides.
The scene stealer, for me, was from Sam Rockwell as Owen. I’m a big fan of Rockwell and, even in his shittiest of films, I will never stop singing his praises because the man is talented and, dammit, he deserved a flippin’ Oscar for Moon. Owen is one of those archetypes that are the fun guys who look like they’re all about goofing off but, deep down, this guy knows his shit and is secretly Yoda with the words of wisdom he spits out in-between playful flirting with any lady that walks by and overall sense of being the ultimate slacker. We’ve seen characters like this in the past but Rockwell played it so well and the way he played off of the quiet magnitude that was the stoic Liam James ended up making the film a buddy comedy as well as a coming of age story.
|This water park is missing the prerequisite "woman in a bikini who shouldn't be |
wearing a bikini."
The Way Way Back is a strong, funny and emotional movie that actually feels realistic in its presentation. While it has all the makings to be a generic independent, overly moody comedy, the film has that perfect blend of story, comedy and emotion to it. Add in a really strong performance from Sam Rockwell and a great cast making up the rest of the film and you have yourself a great film that entertains on every front.
|Our hero ends his journey with some self-respect, a bit more confidence and, more importantly,|
he's tan...well, slightly less pale.